By Cliff Rold
Still one of Boxing’s deepest and most entertaining divisions, 168 lbs. suffered a bit of a lull in 2008. Its premiere figure, Joe Calzaghe, vacated after completing his legacy in the division with a win over Mikkel Kessler in 2007. Without Calzaghe, Kessler stood out as best in class but wound up in two ho-hum fights which did nothing to further him. New titlists emerged in the form of Carl Froch and Denis Inkin while Lucien Bute was able to both show his best and expose some possible flaws in a war with Librado Andrade.
With a New Year approaching, the last twelve months then end up feeling a bit like the early part of a bigger game of chess. Pieces have been moved into place; pawns maneuvered and removed. Will the big moves unfold next? It is a question leading to a first so far in this series of reviews.
Super Middleweight Fighter of the Year: None
Multiple fighters could make a claim for having made the biggest mark at Super Middleweight this year as noted, but none truly separated themselves. A case could be made for Froch, and likely will be as the sensational battle with Jean Pascal mere weeks ago is replayed in the U.S., but the fight was more about proving both men belonged with the world’s best. Neither was a proven commodity before the bout; they proved their worth together.
A case, oddly, could also be made for IBF Middleweight champion Arthur Abraham. His victory over Edison Miranda was the single most sensational in class, a fourth round knockout which made the prospect of an eventual permanent rise in weight intriguing. He, however, remains at 160 lbs. with business to complete if and when he can get Middleweight king Kelly Pavlik in the ring. Lucien Bute was 2-0 and showed great guts in surviving the late onslaught of Librado Andrade in his latter bout, bad refereeing or not.
And then there was Kessler. Two stoppage wins look good but the “who?” nature of his victims merely secured his default position as number one. So, no, there wasn’t a single best fighter at Super Middleweight this year but the parts are in place for there to be one a year from now.
Super Middleweight Fight of the Year: Carl Froch-Jean Pascal
While the eyes and dollars of Boxing were largely focused on Manny Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya, this scrap across the pound was the best bout of the day. For those who haven’t seen it, Fox Sports basic cable outlets are going to be giving it an American debut this week with replays scheduled for December 23rd. Check your local listings. As reported at: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&opt=printable&id=17328
At the Trent FM Arena in Nottingham, the packed house saw a fight of the year contender as Carl Froch (24-0, 19KOs) showed his worth in a twelve round war, winning a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal (21-1, 14KOs) to capture the vacant WBC super middleweight title. The scores were 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112.
The first three rounds were all out action, with both men throwing bombs and landing big shots. Froch appeared to land the harder blows. In the fourth, the fight slowed down for the first two minutes and the two began to go to war again the final minute. At this point, Froch's hometown crowd was on their feet.
Froch started jabbing in the fifth. Pascal would jump in and counter with his hard right hand. A highlight reel exchange saw both fighters land bombs at the same exact time to send the crowd into a frenzy. Just as Pascal was hit, he rocked Froch with a combination at the bell. Froch started using the jab again in the sixth and began to pick his punches. Pascal was rocked a few times by Froch's combinations.
The seventh was more big exchanges by both. Pascal began to look tired at this point and his right eye was swelling bad. Froch rocked him a few times with the uppercut, body shots and left hooks. During some wild exchanges in the eight, Froch was cut around the left eye.
Pascal made his stand in the ninth, pounding away at a tired Froch for most of the round, until Froch stunned Pascal near the end of the final minute and tried to finish him as the clock ran out. Nottingham chants rang out in the tenth as the crowd tried to lift Froch back. He used his boxing skills and jab to bloody Pascal's nose.
Froch was boxing again in the eleveth, until Pascal buzzed with a right hand and the two would once again go back to trading big punches. Froch seemed to have more energy, not by much, and was landing the better shots. In the twelfth and final round, they came to the middle and started throwing big punches. The crowd was on their feet, Froch continued to come on as Pascal once again began to tire. They started trading big punches once again in the closing seconds. The crowd stood up on their feet to applaud both men.
Froch will now have to defend his title against mandatory challenger Jermain Taylor, who won his position with a recent domination of Jeff Lacy.
Super Middleweight: The Year in Results
Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes. Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the New Year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Super Middleweight results of 2008.
02/16: (Non-Title at 166 lbs.) World Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik (33-0, 29 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBO) UD12 #3 at Middleweight Jermain Taylor (27-2-1, 17 KO)
02/27: #1 Anthony Mundine (31-3, 23 KO, WBA) UD12 Nader Hamdan (40-6, 18 KO)
02/29: #2 Lucien Bute (22-0, 18 KO, IBF) TKO10 William Joppy (39-5-1, 30 KO)
03/22: #8 Librado Andrade (27-1, 21 KO) TKO8 Robert Stieglitz (31-2, 19 KO)
04/05: #7 Juergen Braehmer (31-1, 25 KO) TKO9 Karim Bennama (17-10-2, 4 KO)
05/10: #5 Carl Froch (23-0, 19 KO) TKO4 Albert Rybacki (15-1, 8 KO)
05/28: #3 Anthony Mundine (32-3, 23 KO) UD12 Sam Soliman (35-11, 13 KO)
06/21: #2 Mikkel Kessler (40-1, 30 KO, WBA) TKO11 Dimitri Sartison (22-1, 14 KO)
06/21: 160 lb. #1 Arthur Abraham (27-0, 22 KO, WBA) TKO4 #9 Edison Miranda (30-3, 26 KO)
07/23: #7 Jeff Lacy (24-1, 17 KO) MD10 Epifanio Mendoza (28-6-1, 24 KO)
07/24: #8 Denis Inkin (33-0, 24 KO) UD6 Sergey Beloshapkin (6-2, 2 KO)
07/30: #3 Anthony Mundine (33-3, 23 KO) UD10 Crazy Kim (28-5, 24 KO)
09/27: #8 Denis Inkin (34-0, 24 KO) UD12 Fulgencio Zuniga (21-3-1, 18 KO); Vacant WBO title
10/24: #2 Lucien Bute (23-0, 18 KO, IBF) W UD12 #6 Librado Andrade (27-2, 21 KO)
10/25: #1 Mikkel Kessler (41-1, 31 KO) W KO3 Danilo Haussler (29-4-1, 7 KO)
11/12: #4 Anthony Mundine (34-3, 23 KO) UD10 Rafael Pintos (31-3, 12 KO)
11/13: #10 Sakio Bika (27-3-2, 17 KO) TKO3 Peter Manfredo Jr. (31-6, 16 KO)
11/15: #5 Jermain Taylor (28-2-1, 17 KO) UD12 #7 Jeff Lacy (24-2, 17 KO)
12/06: #8 Carl Froch (22-0, 14 KO) UD12 #9 Jean Pascal (21-1, 14 KO); vacant WBC belt
Other divisions in 2008 reviewed:
Heavyweight: See main page
Jr. Bantamweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17572
Jr. Flyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/index.php?m=show&id=17514
Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com